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Drake alphabet.

All right, so I’ve managed to get the issues with the Drake alphabet I mentioned in my last post sorted out.  I was actually pretty much right for the most part, even in the confusing areas.

Here is a table of the letters involved, along with their corresponding letters in Syriac, which looks like it has the most resemblance to Drake out of the several Semitic scripts I looked at.  I still don’t know for certain what the official immediate precursor to the Drake letters was—I’m certain I’ll have a page or two of all the letters evolving somewhere in my notebooks—but the Syriac was actually a great help on this; comparing it to Drake gave me less doubts than comparing Drake to the Semitic tree in general… except that I realized that |z| and |Z| didn’t have anything at all to correspond to.

Drake

IPA

Syriac

Letter

[ʔ]

ܐ

aleph

b

[b]

ܒ

bet

g

[ɡ]

ܓ

gimel

G

[ɣ]

gimel with dot above

d

[d]

ܕ

dalet

D

[ð]

dalet with dot above

h

[h], 0

ܗ

he

v

[uː]

ܘ

waw

V

[aː]

waw with dot above

j

[dʝ]

ܙ

zayin

x

[x]

ܚ

heth

T

[θ]

ܛ

teth

y

[j], [iː]

ܝ

yodh

k

[k]

ܟ

kaph

l

[l]

ܠ

lamedh

m

[m]

ܡ

mem

n

[n]

ܢ

nun

N

[ŋ]

nun with dot above

s

[s]

ܣ

samekh

not attested

ܥ

ayin

p

[p]

ܦ

pe

c

[tç]

ܨ

tsade

not attested

ܩ

qoph

r

[r]

ܪ

resh

š

[ç]

ܫ

shin

Š

[ʃ]

shin with dot above

t

[t]

ܬ

taw

z

[z]


Z

[ʝ]


This table as a PDF (with appropriate fonts)

So |z| and its dotted form |Z| are certainly borrowed letters; they are either the Greek zeta or the Kirumb zéta, which is technically the same letter.  (I lean towards the latter, though it may be unlikely.)

As far as the phonetic values go, I found some old sound change files and confirmed that |š| and |Š| really were [ç] and [ʃ] respectively—the former descends from a Proto-Drake *ɬ  and the latter retains its original *ʃ value.

I think |Z| is most likely [ʝ], not [ʒ] as David Salo suggested, partly because [ʝ] would fill the blank in the [tç] [ç] [dʝ][—] grid, partly because [ʃ] is already an outlier and apparently lacks a voiced form in the protolanguage as well.  Furthermore it’s only attested in one word so far, ?[çemeʝaː] “six”, where the root [ezaː] “four” usually has [z]; however in this case the [z] is following a [ç], suggesting some kind of undocumented consonant harmony may sometimes be in place—if, again, the |Z| in the word is not an error.  (It’s possible that both [z] and [ʝ] are valid values.)

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